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BC gov’t axes gaming grant to queer Fraser Valley youth

'All of a sudden, we don't qualify': director

Housing and social development minister Rich Coleman.

A queer Fraser Valley youth group has joined the growing list of community organizations feeling the effects of the BC government’s gaming grant cuts.

The Fraser Valley Youth Society (FVYS) “just got a letter that their gaming grant was cut for this year,” says Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore, who serves as deputy opposition critic for children, family development and child care. “Basically, their budget is wiped out.”

The FVYS has a drop-in centre for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered and questioning youth located on Montvue Ave in Abbotsford.

Last year, they got a grant for $5,000 from the provincial government.

“I am writing to advise that your request for a regular 2009/10 community gaming grant has been denied,” a Mar 9 letter from the Ministry of Housing and Social Development to FVYS director Loretta Hughes states.

“Given global economic circumstances, the provincial government has had to establish priorities for community gaming grants, and this year the grants will include support for eligible organizations in the human and social services sector,” the letter states.

“To help as many organizations as possible, the amount of funding we will be able to provide to any individual organization is limited, and some human and social services sector groups will receive no funding this year,” it further states.

According to the ministry, the priorities for 2009/10 grants will be “programs that support low income and disabled British Columbians; programs that provide food, shelter and support to at-risk individuals; programs that support community health services; programs that fund nutritional and similar programs in schools for underprivileged children; public safety programs; a limited number of arts and culture activities; community education programs such as daycares and preschools; public community facilities like community halls and recreation facilities; youth and disabled sports; non-sport youth groups… and written three-year commitments made to community groups.”

The letter concludes by saying that the denial of funding is “not subject to a reconsideration or review.”

“The thing is, we’ve had that grant, the gaming money, for three years,” Hughes says. “Nothing is different, we are exactly the same as we were, everything is exactly the same, and all of a sudden, we don’t qualify,” Hughes says.

She says the cut “makes it difficult for us.”

“We have a big group, a lot of kids, we can just barely make it on the money that we have,” she told Xtra West, Mar 11.

“We are the only youth group that offers this service for gay youth out in the Valley, so we feel like if we can’t afford to run the group, then it could be a problem,” she points out.

“The kids could be without [support].”

Elmore says she plans to raise the issue during today’s Question Period in the provincial legislature to “try and get some answers” from housing and social development minister Rich Coleman.

“The category [the Fraser Youth Valley Society] applied under is the public services for high-risk youth,” Elmore notes. “Certainly, these youth in this area are at risk and a vulnerable group,” she says, adding that she plans to ask Coleman to reinstate their gaming grant.

Last fall, provincial government cuts to arts and community groups, including queer ones, also ignited a huge outcry.

Though Finance Minister Colin Hansen introduced a 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy in his Mar 2 budget presentation to the BC legislature, critics are skeptical that many queer organizations will benefit.